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Early Childhood Education | English Language Learning | May 6, 2024

Learning through the Summer: 3 Considerations for Boosting Parent Engagement

Summer is an important time for learning. Parent engagement can ensure essential summer learning for young children by capitalizing on everyday interactions. This article presents 3 considerations to boost parent engagement for better learning over the summer.

Summer Learning Opportunities

Early childhood experiences are a critical foundation for children’s future. These experiences support children’s mental, emotional, and social growth before and between classroom experiences. These learning experiences can happen every day, and occur in the daily interactions we have with children. Summer learning is an ideal and important time to lean into these daily interactions between children and caregivers and to spark learning.

Begin with a Plan

If you are a parent or caregiver of young children, one of the most important aspects to remember for summer learning is that it does NOT have to cost anything, except your time. There are, however, important strategies to consider when planning for summer learning—and planning is important. As parents, grandparents, or caregivers, if we are aware of our daily interactions with young children and use them effectively and wisely, we can help them to

  • build experiences
  • build language/vocabulary
  • build social and quality time.

We can even impart some of the essential skills needed for students to begin school with a simple plan for our own parent engagement.


Engage the Senses

A favorite article of mine published in Reading Rockets, “Your Home as a Learning Experience,” focuses on the child’s immediate environment as a learning bridge. Children bridge experiences to learning and build vocabulary through hands-on activities using their five senses.

A great example of using the immediate environment as a learning bridge is the family kitchen. Meal planning, cooking, and sharing meals is an essential daily family activity that can also be an incredibly rich learning experience. When parents and caregivers invite and involve children in these activities, it results in special bonding time and a shared cultural experience. Children learn

  • literacy skills through the many labels or covers of food products
  • math through measurement and quantity
  • science through the cooking process
  • geography through where foods come from, and
  • writing skills through cooking journaling experiences.

Parent engagement need not be centered entirely around shared cooking and dining experiences. There are so many ways to build experiences, language, and connections through everyday interactions. Families can also use quality time by

  • taking nature walks
  • pointing out plants and trees at the park
  • planting a garden
  • germinating seeds in the kitchen
  • painting with water on a sidewalk and talking about evaporation
  • doing leaf rubbings with a crayon on a blank paper and discussing leaf parts
  • reading books together
  • visiting a relative and discussing the past
  • creating a dessert together
  • discussing the cloud formations
  • creating a weather chart for a month
  • playing with water outside and see what objects sink or float.

When families plan these experiences and discussions, summer learning can flourish.

The Importance of Shared Quality Time

The most important part of any summer learning experience is awareness. To make the most of parent engagement, families should be aware of the goals and outcomes and plan experiences so that they are meaningful. Research shows us that play is important for parent-child bonds and for child development. Spending time with our children and playing with them provides them with stability, helps them with their behavior, helps them do better in school, and helps them have a better relationship with their peers and with other adults.

Playing and learning for young children go hand-in-hand. Therefore, dedicating some time during the day to engage with and spend quality time with children is important and beneficial. Even on days when play time may be minimal, parent engagement might include talking with children, and involving them in daily routines. Even activities such as folding laundry can become important learning time

  • Fold towels to make shapes: rectangle to square, to a triangle
  • Pair socks to learn about one-to-one correspondence
  • Talk about sizes and order from largest to smallest, or smallest to largest
  • Discuss quantities: How many towels were folded? What had more in the laundry?

Or, while walking through a grocery store, parent engagement might look like

  • Finding different textures of fruits and vegetables
  • Discussing where foods come from
  • Talking about seeds and how plants have a life cycle
  • Discussing why some foods need refrigeration

Take a minute and think about what impacted you most growing up. It’s likely that you will call to mind a situation that demonstrates the power of parent engagement. Consider family members who provided experiences, language and vocabulary, and social and quality time. Now, through our own parent engagement, we can influence the next generation and make each child feel special and cared for by using nothing but our quality time.

Daily interactions add up to impactful summer learning with parent engagement and planning. Utilize the three considerations in this article to make the most of summer learning opportunities as a parent or caregiver of young children. These small practical yet playful moments will help children reap the research-supported benefits of parent engagement.

On-Demand Webinar

Learning Through Summer: 3 Considerations for Boosting Parent Engagement

Learn four ways parents can help their children continue to learn through the summer. Access resources and learning strategies that utilize the home and community environment.


Author Bio:

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Rebecca A. Palacios, Ph.D.

Dr. Rebecca A. Palacios is a National Teacher Hall of Fame inductee, National Board Certified Teacher, and leading expert in early childhood education. With over four decades of experience, she is a pioneer in the field of dual language learning and specializes in curriculum planning and instructional design. She is a Senior Curriculum Advisor for In addition to being a founding director of The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and formerly serving as its...

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